Take one of our magnificent cars, strip it down to the bare chassis and take off two wheels. How confident would you be of driving it on the road?

At Klosters, we’re passionate about driving on four wheels but we understand that nowadays there are plenty of people who love riding on two just as much.

  • Bicycle sales have beaten car sales 13 years in a row, when comparing statistics from the Cycling Promotion Fund and the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries. There is no doubt Australians have adopted the bicycle as a common mode of transport over the years but our safety standards have not followed suit.

  • Transport related deaths involving cyclists have risen 42%, according to the latest report by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. This bucks the trend for any other common mode of transport, which all had decreased number of deaths.

  • So, who’s at fault? Police records indicate four in five crashes involving a car and a bicycle are the motorists fault, according to a study by the Adelaide University’s Centre for Automotive Safety Research.

If you’ve travelled a bit overseas, you’d know that we haven’t fully adopted the bicycle lanes commonly seen in Europe. Bicycles are recognised as vehicles and have the same rights as motorists in every state and territory of Australia and that means sharing the bitumen safely.

This means a motorist should not overtake a cyclist between two lanes and should definitely not tailgate or rage at a cyclist who is riding slower than the surrounding traffic. Have sympathy for all those brave cyclists attempting a steep hill!

There are, however, plenty of ways we as motorists and cyclists can improve safety before our infrastructure catches up.
Simply being more aware of the road rules for cyclists is a start.

Protecting Cyclists as Motorists

We are aiming to improve the awareness of sharing the roads with cyclists and since most of the time accidents have been deemed the motorists fault, it is down to us to improve our driving. Below are a few tips on how to protect and be more aware of cyclists on the road.

  • Be aware of bicycle lanes In a lot of metropolitan areas of Australia there are now bicycle lanes on the left shoulder of the road, clearly marked with signs at the beginning and end. Be careful not to drift in and out of these lanes.
  • Look for hand signals Cyclists don’t have indicators but use hand signals instead when merging, turning right or sometimes to let anyone know behind them that they are stopping. Be on the lookout for hand signals when driving near a cyclist and keep in mind the difference between these signals and how cyclists use their hands for support and balance. They are definitely NOT rehearsing a Village People dance routine.
  • Overtake safely Cyclists can ride two bicycles abreast, typically within 1.5 metres of each other. When you are ready to overtake a cyclist or a group of cyclists, treat them just as you would a car, change lanes completely and overtake safely. Some points in the road may also narrow, especially through roundabouts, next to parked cars and over bridges. Leave even more distance between you and a cyclist at these points.
  • Drive no closer than 2 metres behind a cyclist This is common courtesy as well as a safety requirement. There could be nothing more dangerous and horrifying to a cyclist than having a car breathing down their neck.
  • Be mindful of night-riders Cycling at night can be challenging and although cyclists should have one white light at the front and one red light at the rear, they still may not be as visible as a car’s headlights and taillights. Be sure to scan the whole section of the road while driving or turning at an intersection.
  • Drive patiently around beginners Cycling on the road for the first time can be an intimidating prospect. When you see a young cyclist or anyone who is not as confident on two wheels, be patient and leave plenty of room between you and them.

Cycling Safety Tips

Motorists should and hopefully will do as much as they can to avoid accidents with cyclists but it’s also important for cyclists to be familiar with ways of riding safely

  • Wear a helmet In 1991, Australia was the first country in the world to make helmets compulsory. Helmets reduce the risk of head injuries by 63-88%, according to the Cochrane Collaboration. Not wearing a helmet was also the second leading factor of death or serious injury in a crash, according to the Office of Road Safety (ORS) in Western Australia.
  • Plan the safest route Take note of where bike paths lie and avoid busy roads (riding on freeways is illegal). A helmet can only protect contact to your head, the rest of your body is highly exposed. Cycling is too enjoyable to rush. Try and plan the safest route, not the fastest.
  • Make eye contact with motorists Just because you can see a car doesn’t mean the driver can see you. Ride defensively and assume you have not been seen. Try and make eye contact with motorists when changing lanes or at an intersection, particularly with heavy vehicles. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QjPXIe_JMOo
  • Take care when leaving footpaths Be mindful when maneuvering from a footpath or leaving a driveway. This was the leading cause of death or serious injuries to cyclists during moving traffic, according to the ORS.
  • Watch out for car doors In Victoria, where there was sadly a fatality from a dooring incident, police reported a 125% increase in cyclist-door crashes from 2000 - 2010. These are tips for cyclists AND motorists. Cyclists should ride at least one metre clear of any parked cars, slow down when riding close to parked cars and observe if anyone is behind the wheel (red tail light). Motorists should pack their belongings in the left side of the car and open the car door with their left hand - forcing them to turn their head to check for cyclists. It’s always a good idea to double check the side mirrors before opening the door as well, especially when parked next to a bicycle lane. Check this video.
  • Slow down in the wet Bicycle tyres have a lot less surface area than cars or motorcycles and can be hard to maintain control when loss of traction occurs. Braking can be far less effective as well. Remember that any painted lane lines or road markings are like oil slicks in the wet. For Melbournites, it’s recommended to cross those slippery tram tracks at a wide angle. Although it’s hard to avoid cornering at speed in a race, this video shows how easy it is to lose traction on a bicycle.
  • Be cautious on rural roads Roadtrains and large trucks can create a vortex capable of pulling a cyclist onto the road and even under the truck. Stop and pull over more than 5 metres away from the road. Listening to music too loudly is also not recommended for safe driving on rural roads.
  • Dress appropriately Wear a reflective vest at night and avoid wearing dark colours at all times. Most crashes occur in the dimly times of 6 - 9am and 3 - 6pm, according to a study by the South Australian Government. Applying reflective tape to your shoes or tyres is another good way of improving visibility.
  • Always carry ID This is essential in the event of an accident. Keep it safe in a ziplock bag along with a small amount of cash to deal with any unexpected emergencies (a $5 note can make an excellent improvised tyre patch). You should also specify an emergency contact on your phone.
  • Safety check your bicycle daily Before riding anywhere, always check your tyre pressure, brake levers, saddle height and handlebars for looseness. Other checks should be performed weekly, monthly and annually. Refer to Bicycles NSW for more information.
  • How NOT to ride a Bicycle http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKHz7wOjb9w Not only would the flames shooting from the exhaust pipe pose a risk to others on the road, the cyclist is clearly not wearing a helmet and travelling at a speed that has unsafely worn the tyres.

If there’s still some confusion as to where cyclists stand according to the law, refer to the National Transport Commission's Australian Road Rules.

Bicycle safety for children

Teaching your child how to ride a bicycle can be harder than learning yourself. Road trauma is a leading cause of death and disabling injury to children in Australia, according to the Victorian Government.

Tips that will ensure your child will be safe when riding a bicycle are:

  • Teaching basic traffic principles (crossing the street, asking when to cross safely)
  • Always be a role model (talk about traffic rules while in the car)
  • Plan safe routes to school with your child
  • Teach your child helmet safety (show them how to tighten and clip on the chin strap)
  • Check for Australian Standard sticker on helmet
  • Make sure your child is wearing bright colours
  • Check age and weight restrictions of bicycle
  • Safety check your child’s bike (do this in front of your child while you're checking your own bike)